A flurry of worst-case scenarios raced through Jennifer Frese’s mind when she received a phone call after 11 p.m. Saturday from Landon Petersen, 15. He was at the scene of a crash of her 16-year-old daughter’s car, submerged 5 feet deep in a creek, flowing by 160th Road south of Marion County Lake.
“My reaction was, ‘Oh my goodness.’ How quickly could I get there?” Frese said.
Her fears did not subside when she saw four of the children in the car that hit a concrete bridge and flipped into the water. They were bound to backboards by emergency medical technicians.
“Because it was a rollover they had to,” Frese said.
“My mom had the look like she had tears in her eyes. She thought that it was worse than it was,” Kaitlyn Frese said.
After a few conversations and transport to St. Luke Hospital, Jennifer found out that the four teenagers in the car were unharmed, save for a few scrapes and bruises.
“They are very lucky,” Jennifer Frese said.
Earlier, the five Marion High School freshmen and sophomores were enjoying Saturday night, driving in Kaitlyn’s Ford Focus on country roads southeast of town.
Landon Petersen, driving at the time, got out of the car because he saw a deer, and then the four passengers dared him to stay there. In an attempt to freak Petersen out, Betsy Williams, sitting in the passenger seat, swung her left leg over the center console of the car and revved the engine of vehicle.
Kaitlyn said that the vehicle had the tendency to flip easily out gear, sometimes in the middle of a road in drive. Betsy accidentally knocked the gear shift, and the car began to roll, with the wheel shifted off the road to the left.
Although it was not a rapid descent off the small bridge, the four passengers in the car, including Andrew Hampton, 15, and Brett Voth, 15, in the back seat, stayed in the vehicle. The two boys in the back seat yelled at Betsy to stop. Kaitlyn said it felt like she was daydreaming as the vehicle began to roll.
She said she did not feel the impact of the vehicle hitting concrete on the bridge and flipping over. She did not even realize the car was flipped until she attempted to open the door. Unbuckled in the backseat of the vehicle, Kaitlyn attempted to open the door nearest her, water rushed in and sucked her back into the car.
She was able to free herself and get out. Landon called out for them and he met Kaitlyn at the car and helped pull the other passengers out of the vehicle. Both boys were wearing seatbelts and had their heads submerged underwater as they tried to work the clasp of the belts.
The Freses went back to 160th Road on Sunday to tow the vehicle themselves. They saw it was locked in neutral.
“It truly was an accident,” Jennifer Frese said. “I hope kids learn to not use the vehicle to play in.”
Kaitlyn said the reaction from her classmates was immedieate. They held a small powwow at a movie theater where they were during the accident. Some of them raced to see their friends at the hospital.
“It just really showed how grateful they were,” Kaitlyn said.